Nazi Germany

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    "Watch out, Europe! We're going on tour!"
    "There are those at home who ask what we are fighting for. Let them come here, and see what we are fighting against."

    This explanation is by no means meant to be totally inclusive of everything that defines Nazi Germany, but just to give an overview of what it is and the reasons it's important here on All The Tropes (mainly because of Godwin's Law).

    Nazi Germany is the name commonly used to refer to the German nation when it was ruled by Adolf Hitler in the years 1933-1945, also known as the Third Reich.[1] (The First being the Holy Roman Empire, and the Second being Imperial Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm.)

    During this time, Germany's policies were dominated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi (National Socialist German Workers' Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)) Party's racist ideology, directed particularly (but not exclusively) toward those of Jewish descent. Though this is by no means the only policy adopted by the Nazi Party, it was so prominent that it has become one of their defining characteristics. The belief in the superiority of what Hitler called the Aryan race would ultimately culminate in The Holocaust -- the deliberate, industrialized mass murder of millions of ethnic minorities, dissenters, political malcontents, and social "undesirables" as defined by the Nazi Party; a period of horror and monstrosity that would claim the lives of at least eleven million people, six million of which were Jews, and would give rise to the word "genocide."

    Nazi Germany also pursued aggressive territorial expansion. Hitler believed that Nazi Germany and the Aryan race should be the rightful rulers over not just all the German-speaking peoples, or even the Germanic states, but all of Europe. This pursuit of territory led to the annexation of the Austria and the Sudetenland, the invasion of Poland, and ultimately the start of World War II—the single most destructive war in human history.

    However, this is subject to Alternate Character Interpretation, as some historians - most infamously A.J.P. Taylor - dispute this and assert that Hitler's foreign policy was opportunistic and the incompetence of his enemies was as responsible for German gains and the war as himself, while others even believe that Hitler had a Stufenplan (step-by-step plan) for total world domination that would have ended in a global showdown, with the United States on one side and the British Empire, Italy, Japan and Greater Germany on the other (although why all these warring states would ever unite together is puzzling). This latter view was most avidly proposed by the now heavily discredited historian Andreas Hilgruber. Since Hilgruber first proposed it in the 1960s, the Stufenplan belief has largely died down, although Taylor's assertions that the annexations of Austria and Czechoslovakia were as much to do with diplomatic blunders as Nazi foreign policy has yet to catch on.

    Because of Nazi Germany's involvement in World War II and the unambiguous "evil-ness" of their racial policies, they make convenient enemies in fiction and Video Games. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in people (at both ends of the political spectrum) using the term "Nazi" as an insult towards anyone with whom they may disagree. This practice is strongly discouraged in intelligent debate and is now considered a sign that the name-caller has no actual argument for their case. It's also important to note that just because the Nazis did something doesn't mean that thing is inherently evil purely on account of that association. For example, the Nazis built the first modern highway network (the Autobahn), and it's safe to say that highways are not evil.

    While there are literally thousands of books and other sources of information on Nazi Germany and the historical consequences, here are some brief points of interest:

    Nazi Germany was heavily into "racial purity", believing in the superiority of the Aryan race, despite that:

    • "Aryan" was a synonym for Indo-Europeans, who originated from just over the Caspian Sea, though today the term is usually used in reference to the specific group (Indo-Aryans or Indo-Iranians) who inhabit parts of India and most of Iran (which means "home of the Aryans"). Let's just say that the whole "racial purification ideology" was not the most coherent mental construction ever imagined.
    • Hitler, despite having blue eyes, wasn't "Aryan" in the slightest. The ideal body image for Germans was supposed to be tall and athletic with blue eyes and blond hair. Ironically, perhaps the three most enthusiastic proponents of "Aryan" racial superiority were Adolf Hitler (of medium height and with dark brown, almost black hair), Henrich Himmler (tiny, thinning black hair, pudgy, glasses) and Joseph Goebbels (also short, black-haired, and had a limp). The only well-known Nazi who actually lived up to the ideal (for very screwed-up values of 'ideal') was Reinhard Heydrich, who was super tall, had platinum blond hair, blue eyes, was a champion athlete and a renowned violinist. Heydrich, though, suffered the indignity of being killed by Czech (Slavs, thus subhuman) assassins.

    Some of the lesser-known facts on the place:

    • It was the world's first country to run regular TV services.
    • It was the first country to engage in a major anti-smoking campaign.
    • It was the first country to develop ballistic missiles and use them on an enemy city.
    • As mentioned before, it was the first country to develop an interstate highway system.
    • Hitler, mass butcher of human beings that he was, was a non-smoker who loved animals and never went near any of the prison camps and death camps himself. He's often described as a vegetarian and teetotaler, but several people who knew him described him as eating and drinking at least some meat and sometimes alcohol. The Nazis, however, didn't give vegetarian organizations exemption from banning, though they did introduce very tough anti-cruelty to animals laws by the standards of the time, with the implications that Jews were naturally cruel to animals[2] while "Aryans" loved them.
    • While homosexuality and interracial relationships were strictly outlawed, the attitude towards straight sex between "Aryans" was quite relaxed in the Third Reich. Nude bathing was legalized in 1942. This may have been less about liberated morals and more about filling the vast swaths of eastern Europe the Nazis intended to capture and depopulate. The Nazis lauded "Aryan" fertility and their idea of the woman's place leaned heavily towards "barefoot and pregnant."
    • Its trains ran on time, although history tends to overstate this. Hitler liked fostering competition among his underlings—even at the expense of efficiency. Towards the end, the only trains running on time were those heading to Auschwitz...
    • It banned Gothic (Blackletter) writing in 1941 when they were declared to be "Jewish letters," in spite of its pop-cultural association with Nazi propaganda (which was arguably true until that point in time).
    • The display of Nazi Germany as "most effective/well-organized/hard-working society ever created" that abounds in older fiction has been convincingly disproved; Hitler created a confusing mass of bureaucracies all hampering each other and spying on each other, which also prevented any one of them from gaining enough power to be a danger to himself. They were, however, amazingly anal-retentive. It has been guessed this helped the International Criminal Court a lot during the Nuremberg Trials. It's probably why the term Grammar Nazi exists.
    • The 1936 Olympics were the first to feature the Olympic torch relay carrying the Olympic flame from Olympia, Greece to the host city (in this case Berlin).
      • Everyone knows Jesse Owens won the 1936 Olympic gold medals for the 100m sprint, the long jump, the 200m sprint, and the 4x100m relay, but the first blow to the idea of European eugenically-bred super-athletes was the 1912 Olympics. Oddly, Owens himself is quoted as saying "Hitler didn't snub me; it was FDR that snubbed me." Although when you factor in the fact that, at the time, America's racial policies and attitudes weren't a million miles off from those of Nazi Germany, and that Owens never received any kind of official acknowledgement of his achievements until Eisenhower's administration in the 1950s, this ire becomes a bit more understandable.
    • There was very little to any rationing in the first half of the war. You know how Americans had victory gardens, were encouraged to recycle everything (scrap metal, kitchen grease, etc)? Yeah, Germany had none of that up until Stalingrad. To the average German, it wasn't obvious there was even a war on.
    • It is often brought up that "socialist" was in the Nazi Party's full name. In truth, this gets complicated. Back then, socialism was seen as good and people flocked to any group that called themselves socialists (like the Social Democrats). The Nazi Party did originally have some strongly socialist policies but had abandoned them by the time the Party became a major political force. They had a more socialist faction that wanted to nationalize industry, but it was strongest in the SA under Ernst Rohm, who was purged in the Night of Long Knives. The Nazis were in fact partly a reaction against the failed socialist German Revolution, suppressing the socialists of the Social Democratic and Communist factions. They did, however, oppose laissez-faire capitalism, along with the Italian Fascists. Like Italian Fascism they advocated a so-called "third way" or "fusionist" economic system, in between state socialism and laissez-faire capitalism, so it's economy, though not directly owned by the state, was heavily planned and tightly regulated. (While the Nazis were fascist, they didn't want to use the term "fascist" because they felt it sounded too Italian. Essentially, Hitler wanted to establish his own German blend of fascism). Price and wage controls were placed on the economy, industries cartelized, the work force strictly controlled in the government Labor Front when unions were banned, with Four-Year Plans to rival the Five-Year Plans of the Soviet Union. So many regulatory hoops had to be gone through that it severely hampered production. Also, the Nazis in fact never ended unemployment-even with military service and people working in munitions factories, they still had it, but changed the way they counted the unemployed to make it appear better. This gave them a pragmatic reason, along with their imperialist aims, for invading other countries to make up for a lack of resources that had rendered their desire to make Germany self-reliant impossible. Thus it was a kind of "looter's" or "vampire" economy, as one book about it was titled.

    It all ended very, very badly. Way, way, way too big to be an Elephant in the Living Room. For a trope-centric discussion, see Those Wacky Nazis, Godwin's Law, Godwin's Law of Time Travel (two different tropes) and Stupid Jetpack Hitler. For a full index of tropes associated with Nazi Germany, see Reichstropen.

    If you want to read about more about the regime, the most acclaimed modern comprehensive survey of its era is The Third Reich Trilogy by Richard J. Evans which includes the books, The Coming of the Third Reich, The Third Reich in Power and The Third Reich at War, which are also available in audiobook at

    Important figures of Nazi Germany

    Nazi Government

    • Adolf Hitler: Der Führer. Has his own page.
    • Ernst Röhm: Leader of the SA (Sturmabteilung), known as the Brownshirts and a key assistant in Hitler's takeover. He was big and fat, a tough ex-military man who liked young boys. To remove a potential rival (or because he was plotting against him, as has been claimed), Hitler personally arrested him and had him executed in the Night of the Long Knives, along with much of the SA leadership.
    • Hermann Göring (usually rendered "Goering" in English): The Reich Marshal, second-in-command to Hitler, and a former World War I Ace Pilot - he personally headed the World War Two Luftwaffe (German air force). He was something of a fighting narcissist in his youth, and at the time he was considered handsome and was successful with the ladies. In later years, Göring was known for growing morbidly overweight and debauched; he owned several palaces where he lived like a Roman Emperor, was addicted to alcohol and heroin, and had many younger mistresses alongside his wives. In addition to piling on the pounds, Göring piled on title after title: along with Reichsmarschall and C-in-C of the Luftwaffe, he was President of the Reichstag, President of the Prussian Council, director of the Four-Year-Plan (largely putting him in control of the economy until Speer took over in 1942), Reich Master of the Forest and Hunt, and countless other offices. He had a sadistic sense of humor (usually directed at Jews) and was the original founder of the Gestapo. Because of the complete failure of the Luftwaffe pilots in the Battle of Britain, he was gradually Kicked Upstairs for his incompetence after 1940. His political career ended with a bang when Hitler stripped him of his power at the end of the war after sending a telegram asking to take command of the Reich. Arrested by the Allies after the German surrender, he was sentenced to death at Nuremberg, but took a Cyanide Pill (which he stored in his anus) the night before his execution. He was diagnosed as a sociopath during the Nuremberg Trials, in contrast to most other Nazis who were mentally sound. Rumor has it that Sweden was spared from occupation (when neighboring states came under German military occupation) because his late wife was a Swede.[3]
      • During his youth, Göring's mother said that he would "grow up to be a great man or a great criminal".
      • Göring's half-brother Albert (who was also likely half-Jewish) opposed Nazi ideals and was in the German Resistance. He was also the very definition of Crazy Awesome for the ways he helped Jews and dissidents, banking on his family connections. Goering was furious over it, but protected him nonetheless.
      • Göring claimed just before the war that the Ruhr Metropolitan Area (Germany's industrial center) would not be hit by a single bomb; if it did, he would change his name to Meier (saying you want "to be called Meier" is a German idiom to express that something is impossible) and also that he would eat his hat. After the United States entered the war, however, the Allies started attacking German cities with thousands of bombers that the Luftwaffe became increasingly unable to counter-attack. Göring made frequent tours of the devastated cities, where cynical civilians would call out "Hello, Mr. Meier! How's your hat?"
      • Göring, being the head of the Luftwaffe that was the most visible manifestation of the Nazis to the British population due to the Blitz, was the major target of British propaganda and satire during the war. This concentrated mockery was so effective that Göring often remains thought of as a slapdash, incompetent Fat Bastard who couldn't tie his own shoelaces even today—it's often forgotten that prior to this propaganda offensive, he was widely feared as a dashing war hero and thought of as a strategic genius.
    • Joseph Goebbels: Minister of Media and Public Enlightenment, he basically invented modern propaganda. The original spin-doctor, Goebbels was fanatically devoted to Hitler and was ultimately appointed his successor as head of government. He was obsessed with the "Aryan race" and envied them, since he was a short black-haired man who was unable to fight on the front lines as a youth because of his limp. He compensated for this with his charisma, and after the Nazis lost in the Soviet Union, he whipped up their supporters at home into a frenzy, ensuring that they continued fighting against overwhelming odds. Goebbels was known for his slick and charming personality (he dated several film stars), and for being among the few intellectuals in the Nazi Party (Alfred Rosenberg (see below) was another). He was also a devoted family man and model father.[4] After Hitler committed suicide in 1945, Goebbels succeeded him as Chancellor of Germany and reigned for thirty hours before he shot his wife and then himself. His wife had previously killed their six children, as they had agreed, despite several offers (including from Albert Speer) to take them to safety in the west beforehand.
      • Of all the speeches he gave during his career, Goebbels' most famous one was the Sportpalast Speech. It was given on February 18, 1943, three weeks after the defeat in Stalingrad. This speech was the first acknowledgement by the Nazi leadership that Germany was facing serious problems on all fronts. Perhaps the most infamous bit about his speech was that the audience was carefully selected according to loyalty to Nazi ideology, giving it even greater impact.
    • Heinrich Himmler: Reichsführer of the SS and second-in-command to Hitler, he controlled the concentration camps, Gestapo, and the SS (Schutzstaffel). Hitler considered him his most loyal and competent henchman, and Himmler's decision to negotiate (unsuccessfully) with the Allies was one of the things that drove Hitler to consider suicide. One of the younger Nazis, he started out as a nerdy chicken breeder who carried the swastika flag during rallies. He has always been somewhat of a paradox for both historians and psychologists; despite damning millions to the gas chambers, and planning the further butchery and enslavement of tens if not hundreds of millions, Himmler hated the sight of blood - he repeatedly forced himself to watch recordings of the massacres he had ordered, and fainted in horror. However, despite this personal disgust for the realities of what he was ordering, he remained the key player of many of Nazi Germany's most evil crimes, in particular the Holocaust, painting the mass murders as "heroic" and "necessary" actions that would prove the heroism of the SS. Creepily enough, Himmler looked more like an amiable nerd than the head of the most terrifying armed forces in history. Captured in 1945, he killed himself before he could be questioned (an event witnessed firsthand by famed British cartoonist Carl Giles and Dutch comedian Rijk de Gooijer).
      • Also despite being one of the primary ideological driving forces of the Third Reich's crimes, whose belief in the paramount divinity of "Germanic" blood led him to justify the genocide and enslavement of tens of millions of innocents (as well as the planned total enslavement and eventual genocide of the entire population of Poland, Russia and pretty much all of Eastern Europe) in an effort to "protect" this blood, he was one of the first individuals to throw these ideals out the window the moment it suited him. For example, when the war started to go downhill for Germany, he justified and even applauded the enlistment of Slavs, Muslims and even Indians in the SS, despite all three being very much part of the "untermensch" to the Nazis, his view of loyalty to the Fuhrer being an ultimate virtue was abandoned when it became clear Hitler would not give in, thus Himmler abandoned ship and tried to negotiate for peace and his own protection with the British, and finally in what must be the most sickening display of cowardice he tried to better his position during these "negotiations" by cheerfully telling a representative of the World Jewish Congress that after everything he had done, he wanted to "bury the hatchet" with the Jews by trading the lives of thousands of concentration camp inmates for guarantees he would be spared. In short, the death, misery, and suffering he had knowingly inflicted had all been for a delusional ideology which he never really cared about anyway.
    • Albert Speer: Hitler's only real friend, at least according to Speer himself, and the Anti-Villain of Nazi Germany. Supposedly, he was drawn to the Nazi regime because of his friendship with Hitler, and not because he was a fanatical racist like the others. He was also known as "the Nazi who apologized", and many saw him as the only sane man in the Nazi inner circle - In fact, according to some surviving documents, he was the only member of Hitler's government that was going to keep his Minister position had Operation Valkyrie succeeded in overthrowing Hitler. The fact that his name was followed by a question mark and a note saying that he would only be approached after Hitler's death was what saved his life. Incredibly efficient at what he did (and some, including Speer's own sons, say there was Ho Yay between him and Hitler), Speer rose in power during World War II and became first the chief architect - his grand plans for the future monuments of Germany appealed greatly to Hitler - and later Minister of Armaments, where he used his managing skills to increase production (he tripled ammunition production without building any new factories, while dealing with almost daily Allied bombings) and prolong the war. In the end, he refused to carry out Hitler's order to burn the German countryside so nothing would be left for the Allies—or, for that matter, the Germans—so he abandoned him. Hitler let him live. Speer regretted what he did (denying knowledge of the Holocaust - although modern historians tend to agree that he at the very least knew just enough to know where not to look and what not to ask). Following Nuremburg, he served a twenty year long prison sentence in Spandau, then was released. He died of old age in 1981.
      • All that's left of Speer's work today are some lampposts, a few concrete cylinders (built to test if the marshy terrain of Berlin can support the weight of Hitler's proposed Volkshalle—it can't), and the plans for the reconstruction of bombed German cities in case of defeat.
      • Speer was a bit more liberal than the rest of the Nazi leadership. In 1943, after taking over as Armaments Minister, he proposed that Germany could ease its home manpower shortages by employing women in factories, something the Allies (especially the Americans) had already done. The Nazis refused, believing the role of "Kinder, Küche, Kirche" (children, kitchen, church).
    • Rudolf Hess: The first Deputy Führer and one of the original Nazis. Even though he was originally meant to be Hitler's successor, he gradually faded away as more ambitious men like Goering and Himmler took his place. Hess was an oddball of a Nazi who was obsessed with astronomy, astrology, organic gardening and animal welfare. He had the strange idea of flying a fighter plane on his own to the UK to try and negotiate peace with the British in 1941. The British weren't interested in this at all and kept him in solitary confinement for the rest of the war. The other Nazis claimed he had gone completely off his rocker (which was true)[5] After the war, he spent the rest of his life at Spandau Prison, where he remained alone for last 21 years of his life after the release or death of everyone else (at that point, most of the guards took pity on "the Loneliest Man on Earth" and let him have free access to the entire prison and even took him outside to dinner). Committed suicide in 1987 at the ripe old age of 93.
    • Martin Bormann: Private secretary of Hitler and unofficially one of the most powerful men in the Third Reich. He controlled all access to Hitler and oversaw all information that came to and from the Führerbunker, giving him enormous power. He was widely feared and hated amongst other leading Nazis, since Hitler had generally given him the role of keeping their ambitions and power-grabbing in check. Strangely, even the SS leaders were scared of the bullying Bormann; he once had a good rant at Himmler down the phone for accidentally hinting that the Jews were not merely being "transported". As the war reached its end, Bormann had near-total control over Hitler, but fled after his boss's suicide and disappeared. He was sentenced to death in absentia at the Nuremberg Trials. It was rumored for many years that he had successfully escaped to South America, but in 1998 a skull found in Berlin was confirmed as his.
    • Joachim von Ribbentrop: The Foreign Minister. He acted as an ambassador to London before the war, intending to steer them towards opposing the Soviet Union rather than scrutinizing German territorial disputes. Lots of Brits were outraged when he gave the Nazi salute to George VI. Because Ribbentrop was ambassador to Britain, the news media of the time tended to portray him as one of the major faces of Nazi Germany (as opposed to one of the generals in Germany no one had ever heard of, who were actively building up the Nazi state). In reality, Ribbentrop was little more than a mouthpiece for Hitler, and incredibly unskilled as a diplomat. Every notable person who ever worked with Ribbentrop - from the Allies, the Nazi command staff, even his own subordinates - each gave the same description of Ribbentrop with alarming consistency: pompous, conceited, erratic, and surprisingly dumb.
      • The Nuremberg trials were also when whatever previous assumptions the Allies had about Ribbentrop's intelligence wore off. One oft-quoted exchange was when the prosecution accused Ribbentrop that he had aggressively threatened Czechoslovakia during the Munich Agreement, which he flatly denied. The prosecutor asked what further pressure he could possibly have put on the head of a country beyond threatening to march in the German army in overwhelming strength, and bomb their capital with the Luftwaffe. Ribbentrop's actual reply was "war, for instance". The prosecution was so baffled by Ribbentrop's overall stupidity that they openly questioned his subordinates how such an obviously unqualified man was made a high official, to which they explained that he was little more than a rubber stamp for foreign policy Hitler himself actually drafted.
        • Ironically, according to an army psychologist present at Nuremberg, his IQ was 129 - one point higher than Speer's.
      • Justice Jackson, the American Chief Prosecutor, asked Mr. Ribbentrop if he would take responsibility for the foreign policy of the Third Reich during his tenure. Mr. Ribbentrop responded by saying that he didn't know what the foreign policy was.
      • One of his biggest blunders was when he nearly hit King George V: he made the "Heil, Hitler!" salute as the king walked forward to shake his hand. He compounded the damage by insisting that, henceforward, all German diplomats were to greet foreign heads of state with the fascist salute, and the latter would have to return it. It wasn't until Hitler was pointed out that, according to those rules, he would have to return the Communist clenched fist salute if the Soviet Ambassador gave it, that the crisis was solved.
    • Alfred Rosenberg: One of the few intellectual Nazis, and the author of many of Hitler's infamous creeds. Notably, he rejected Christianity and conspired to replace it with "Positive Christianity", which was intended to be transitional to a Nazi faith. Rosenberg became Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories following the invasion of Russia, directing the creation of Nazi slave colonies on Soviet soil. Not only violently anti-communist, he was responsible for the racial categorization in the Reich. Captured by the Allies as the war ended, he was found guilty of crimes against peace and initiating wars of aggression, and hanged. He and Hermann Göring were born on the same day (12 January 1893), and if Göring hadn't committed suicide before his execution, they would have died the same day too.

    The Wehrmacht

    • Wilhelm Keitel: Field Marshal and head of the German High Command, and essentially a walking, talking rubber stamp for Hitler. He was called "the Chuckler" by other Nazis since his main task was to chuckle at Hitler's witty comments. He had the nickname of "Lakeitel", a play on the German word for "lackey" and also a reference to a children's toy: a donkey whose head, when it's string was pulled, would bob up and down. He almost never attempted to stand up to the Führer, with catastrophic consequences for the men under his command. He didn't even have the dignity to try and stand up for himself after the war; Albert Speer recorded in his memoirs that he overheard Keitel groveling before Grand Admiral Dönitz the exact same way he had before Hitler. He was sentenced to death by hanging at the Nuremberg trials, after being denied a request to be shot by firing squad (like a soldier).
    • Alfred Jodl: General and Chief of Operations for the Wehrmacht. Poor Jodl had the nasty experience of having his job usurped by Hitler, a politician who insisted upon micro-managing military operations, leaving him essentially without a job. The few times Jodl attempted to go over Hitler's head, it didn't end well for him. During the Battle of Britain, he eagerly anticipated "the final German victory over England"... and was of course sorely disappointed. Among those injured in the July 20 bomb plot, he complained that no one had been more badly hurt than himself, yet Hitler still received more sympathy from party loyalists. He was executed at Nuremberg, then posthumously acquitted, then re-found guilty.
    • Erwin Rommel: The original Magnificent Bastard and the Worthy Opponent of the British in World War II. He was one of the less enthusiastic supporters of the Nazis regime and was not of Blue Blood, two reasons for which the Generals in the Nazi High Command hated him. Later on he became very critical of the Nazi regime and disillusioned with Hitler. Although he was incredibly loyal to Germany he refused all orders to kill prisoners of war and treated them fairly. Nobody from his Afrika Korps was ever accused of war crimes, probably because of his influence. Orders to kill any Jews on sight in all theaters of his command were defiantly ignored. He did, however, even after becoming disillusioned, work very hard to make the coast of France deadly to the invading Allies. He was forced to commit suicide in 1944 after being implicated in a plot to assassinate Hitler. The general consensus among many historians is that he at least knew of it, even if he had no direct involvement. His reputation as a general was probably inflated as a consequence of the trope America Wins the War, however, as he was the most famous German general to consistently fight the non-Soviet Allied troops. He was never actually a member of the Nazi party and is remembered positively in Germany and the rest of the world, and there was a German destroyer named after him (which was decommissioned after 30 years of service). In addition, Rommel is the only German field marshal of the war to have a museum dedicated to him.
      • Note that members of the Wehrmacht weren’t allowed to affiliate with a political party, so it's not at all unusual he wasn't a member of the Nazi party. Of course, that did not stop soldiers who did believe in Nazi ideology from joining. Rommel, however, was critical of Hitler's policies.
    • Heinz Guderian: Colonel-General and the go-to guy for Panzer operations. Pioneered many of the techniques used in the Blitzkrieg, and spearheaded the effort as well. He had joined the German Army back when it meant working for the Kaiser, but remained loyal to Germany even when it meant loyalty to Hitler. Many traditional Prussian generals disobeyed orders on a regular basis; Guderian disobeyed them snidely. (When ordered to halt halfway to Calais during the invasion of France, but permitted to conduct a reconnaissance in force, he left about a tenth of his force as a garrison and "reconnaissanced in force" all the way to the sea.) He was eventually sacked for violating Hitler's ridiculous "no retreat" order on the Eastern Front, then recalled a little while later to take an important position on the General Staff. He opposed assassination attempts against Hitler (or at least, to ones that wouldn't go all the way and root out the rest of the Nazi leadership), but he argued with Hitler so passionately that on more than one occasion the Führer nearly had a stroke. Rommel, while recuperating from an illness, said only Guderian would be suitable to replace him as commander of the Afrika Korps. The high command replied that Guderian was unacceptable (probably to Hitler). At Nuremberg, the Poles and Russians wanted him hanged, but the US determined that he had behaved consistent with his role as a professional soldier, and released him with no charges; the Americans also consulted with him in the '50s when it came time to rearm West Germany against the Soviets.
    • Erich von Manstein: If Guderian was the tank ace and Rommel the tactical genius, then Manstein was Master of Strategy. He planned the Ardennes offensive which knocked France out of the war in 6 weeks and was largely responsible for the initial huge success of the Russian invasion. He was put into command of the 11th army and soon, the the newly created Army Group Don. After the encirclement of Paulus' 6th Army at Stalingrad, Manstein was responsible for the planned rescue of said army (which Hitler shot down) and for saving the entire southern wing of the German front from collapsing after the 6th Army's destruction. He led the southern pincer in the "battle of Kursk", although he wanted to have the German forces attack in the center (where the Soviets didn't expect the Germans to go). Eventually, he was fired by Hitler because Hitler felt threatened by Manstein's strong personally and tendency to disagree with him (The fact that Hitler made him a field marshal and gave him an army group to command despite their dislike for each other is a testament to just how effective Manstein was at his job). In 1944, both Field marshals Gunther von Kluge and Erwin Rommel said to Manstein "I am (also) prepared to serve under your orders" and Field marshal Fedor von Bock said that Manstein was Germany's last hope (seven days before Germany surrendered). In fact, high officers, such as Colonel General (later Field Marshal) Wolfram von Richtofen wanted him to be in charge of the entire eastern front. The fact that the legendary Desert Fox (and many other distinguished generals) would be happy to serve under him should serve as a testament to his skill as a General and strategist.
      • Regarding his politics, Manstein was very similar to his fellow generals. He was not particularly antisemitic, but was anti-communist, autocratic, militaristic, and apolitical (General Reichenau was disliked by many for joining the Nazi party). He, like many eastern front generals, were complicit in letting the SS murder civilians behind the front as they swept through Russia. He thought of Hitler as a good politician, but an idiot in military matters, and disliked Hitler's interference with Army affairs. He was against assassination of Hitler, but received many visitors who suggested Manstein help with the coup, and was generally polite towards them.
    • Gerd von Rundstedt: Born into a Prussian family, this guy was in the German Army since 1892 (or more precisely, before Hitler was even in preschool). In his youth, Rundstedt was accepted to Germany's elite military academy, an institution where only 160 new students were accepted annually and became one of the few students who graduated in his class. He led the army into Southern Poland and half-a-year later had his Crowning Moment of Awesome: leading the largest amount of German armour through the Ardennes forest to knock out France. After Operation Sea Lion was called off (where he would have had command of the lead forces), Rundstedt was put in charge of the occupation forces in France before commanding during Operation Barbarossa and kept his forces going even when he was suffering a heart attack (though this was beaten back few days later by a Russian counterattack). Angry, Hitler brought him back to the relatively cushy job of building fortifications along the French coastline. He was also highly critical of Hitler and the Nazis throughout his entire career. During the Battle of Normandy, where he served as Commander-in-Chief West with Rommel as his subordinate, Keitel asked Rundstedt what he could do to stop the invasion, as Hitler believe the real invasion would come at Calais and thus forbade the redeployment of German forces. Rundstedt's response to his superiors in Berlin was "Make peace, you idiots!" After being forcibly retired, but brought back after the liberation of Paris, Rundstedt managed to pull off one last victory by repelling Operation Market Garden before he was relieved of command in March 1945. Still, he managed a last snark when he was asked by his Russian interrogators what was the most decisive battle of the war; they expected him to say "Stalingrad", but he replied "the Battle of Britain", causing the Russians to walk out.
    • Albert Kesselring: Field Marshal of the Luftwaffe. Known as "Smiling Albert", he had his start in the air force as a balloon observer in the First World War. A somewhat overlooked general, he commanded Luftwaffe forces in the invasions of Poland, France, and was second to Goering in the Battle of Britain. He was later appointed Commander-in-Chief South, putting him in charge of the entire Mediterranean Theater (making him Rommel's boss). After the fall of North Africa, Kesselring was still put in charge of the Italian defenses, creating a stubborn defense that left Northern Italy in Axis hands until the end of the war.
    • Erich Raeder: Grand Admiral, the first head of the Kriegsmarine. He served in combat posts during the First World War, taking part in the Battles of Dogger Bank and Jutland. When a second war was approaching, Hitler made him the first Grand Admiral since Alfred von Tirpitz. However, by midway through the war, his career had fallen apart. Hitler failed to comprehend how vital a large well-equipped fleet was in order to compete with the Royal Navy, and Raeder had only a fraction of the ships he needed when the war started (Hitler had assured him there wouldn't be a major war until 1945). The Kriegsmarine lost half the ships it committed to the invasion of Denmark and Norway; the following year, the Germans lost their prized flagship Bismarck on its maiden voyage. The surface fleet slowly withered away before being restricted to their home ports and moreover, was overshadowed by the success of the U-boat Force. In 1943, soon after the catastrophic defeat at Stalingrad, Raeder resigned from the Kriegsmarine.
    • Karl Dönitz: Grand Admiral, master of the Kriegsmarine (his micro-management of the submarine campaign led to its failure because of the amount of traffic that the ULTRA people could decrypt) and eventually the last Nazi leader at the end of the war - Hitler passed on the office of President to Dönitz, while Josef Goebbels became Chancellor and Martin Bormann became Party Minister. This was not due to any great political success on Dönitz's part, but because Hitler believed that the Army, Air Force, and the SS had all betrayed him; the Navy held much less political power and consequently Dönitz received the position by default. After both Hitler and Goebbels had killed themselves and Bormann had fled (actually he died trying to flee Berlin, but this wasn't discovered for years), Dönitz signed the unconditional surrender. Received the mild sentence of 10 years in prison when Admiral Nimitz pointed out the Americans had also practiced unrestricted submarine warfare (against Japan), and even then quite a few Allied officers protested it. He remained a staunch racist until he died.
    • Admiral Wilhelm Canaris: Head of the Abwehr, or German military intelligence, until 1944 when he was arrested, and shortly thereafter executed for his suspected involvement in the July Plot- he was, but he was already under house arrest when it was carried out. The Gestapo then unconvered details of numerous other plots he had masterminded but had failed, or were only on paper. Canaris was perhaps the most underrated hero figure in the history of Nazi Germany, one most people have likely not heard of. Of aristocratic and Catholic stock, he turned increasingly to his faith after the rise of Nazism, and had several contacts in the Vatican. Canaris held most of the typical Conservative prejudices to be expected of a man of his background (such as hardline anti-Marxism), but in the main held Hitler and his cronies in utter contempt. He found himself in a unique position when he was placed in charge of German intelligence, and he was quick to fill its upper ranks with anti-Nazi sympathisers and members of the Resistance. Agents in the know were instructed to sabotage their own operations and made contacts with British intelligence and other Western agencies, with whom he sharted vital information. Canaris was also responsible for encouraging Franco to act like a dick to Hitler, helping to keep Spain out of the war. Canaris even helped foil a plot by Hitler to kidnap The Pope, in retaliation for the arrest of Mussolini. His activities brought him into rivalrly and conflict with Heydrich, who ran his own intelligence network....and who was a close personal friend of Canaris, whom he regarded both as a mentor and as the only Navy officer he did not dislike. The hypercompetent Heydrich was aware of what Canaris was up to but bided his time, while Canaris was increasingly horrified by Heydrichs' callous, calculated brutality. Heydrich's assassination was done in part to preserve Canaris' position.
    • Walter Model: A hard-driving panzer commander in the early days of the Eastern Front, Model was promoted to general and later field marshal for his skill in stopping Soviet (and to a lesser extent, Western Allied) attacks. He became known as the Wehrmacht's best defensive tactician, earning the nickname "Hitler's Fireman" for being the Fuhrer's go-to general for dealing with desperate situations. He was also known for being crude, blunt, and to the point, bypassing the military's bureaucracy constantly and publicly insulting officers who didn't meet his standards. This behavior made him well-liked by his troops and despised by his staff, earning him his other nickname "Frontline Pig." Unlike many other Wehrmacht generals, he became known for having ties with Nazism and Hitler. Many who knew him insisted he was a zealous Nazi. Historians still aren't sure whether or not this was the case. What is known is that he had a close personal relationship with Hitler, though this relationship became strained at times (he once asked him "Mein Führer, who commands Ninth Army, you or I?"). He was considered by Hitler to be his best field marshal, and the only one he ever fully trusted. As such, Hitler didn't countermand his tactical decisions as he did with other generals. Model, in turn, never objected to or interfered with massacres, deportations, and other atrocities committed by the SS in areas under his command. Faced with total defeat, and indicted by the Soviets for war crimes, he committed suicide on April 21, 1945.
    • Colonel-Count Claus von Stauffenberg: Leader of the July 20 Plot. A member of the aristocracy and a devout Catholic, he was initially enthusiastic about the Nazi regime, especially when Germany defeated France in under six weeks. However, his love for Germany started to override his support of Hitler once he started to become aware of the atrocities being committed on the Eastern Front. For speaking against Hitler, he was transferred to Tunisia (just a few months before the North Africa campaign ended) and was wounded in an air strike, after which he was brought back to Germany. In the following year, he made connections with Colonel Henning von Treschow and other officers who sought to remove Hitler from power. Unlike the others, Stauffenberg knew it wasn't so much as removing Hitler from power that was the problem, but removing the entirety of the Nazi regime. He proposed using Operation Valkyrie, which was intended to maintain order in the event of a decapitation of government or a slave uprising (they carefully reworded it so that they could allow for the arrest of Nazi officials when implemented, a change which Hitler did not read). On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg arrived in Hitler's Wolfschanze headquarters with a bomb in his briefcase. However, bad luck and bad timing doomed the operation and at the end of the day, Stauffenberg and many of the plotters were summarily executed. Today, they are proudly remembered as heroes in Germany for their brave effort to save Germany from total destruction.
    • Friedrich Paulus: Commander of the Sixth Army during the Battle of Stalingrad. A veteran of World War I (and served in the same infantry regiment as Erwin Rommel), he was particularly hampered during Case Blue by Hitler's orders which changed the targets and direction of attack, severely costing him momentum. After the Soviets launched a counterattack and cut off the Sixth Army, he requested permission to break out, which would save the men under his command. However, Hitler refused and opted for a plan proposed by Göring to supply the Sixth Army by air while Field Marshal Manstein prepared a relief force. While Manstein was competent and could have potentially relieved the Sixth Army, the Luftwaffe was completely unable to supply them from the air, providing only a fraction of the materials needed (and even then, they were mostly useless supplies like vodka and summer uniforms). In January, the Soviets approached him twice with relatively good terms of surrender: medical care for the men, allowing them to keep their personal affects, and normal food rations. Paulus found himself severely handicapped by Hitler's order to hold to the last man. This was cemented on January 30, 1943, when Hitler promoted Paulus to Field Marshal. As no German field marshal had ever surrendered or been captured, he was expected to kill himself or continue holding. Saying he would never kill himself for "that Bohemian corporal", Paulus promptly surrendered. He later became a member of the communist committee for a Free Germany.

    The SS

    • Reinhard Heydrich: Deputy Reichsführer of the SS and Governor of Bohemia, he gave the order for the Final Solution and masterminded the Holocaust. He was also known as "The Hangman". Since his childhood, he was said to excel at anything he put his mind to—fencing, boxing, skiing, charming women, playing the violin, piloting airplanes, and organizing genocide. Completely insane by all accounts and a schizoid, he was supposedly part-Jewish despite being a blue-eyed and blond man (pretty much the only one in the Nazi leadership who looked anything like the "Aryan ideal"). He also had an unpleasant high-pitched voice, for which he was frequently bullied in his early years. He headed the Wannsee Conference, where he decided that all Jews in Europe were to be killed. When he was appointed Governor of Bohemia, he made plans for "Germanizing" parts of the Czech population and the ethnic cleansing of the remainder (medical teams were sent to all Czech schools, disguising the race tests as medical check-ups). In the war effort, Heydrich's sheer intelligence was so dangerous that the Allies made a huge effort to assassinate him. Heydrich never lived to see the full extent of his Holocaust—his car was bombed by two Czech assassins in 1942, and he died of blood poisoning in the hospital afterwards. Even on his deathbed, he was incapable of feeling empathy.
      • Hitler openly called the dying Heydrich a moron for driving around without any protection whatsoever. The assassination of Heydrich took place in Prague, whose civilian population was punished. A letter, supposedly from one of the assassins was found in Lidice, which was later proven to be sent by a mere factory worker. But K.H. Frank, Heydrich's successor, wanted brutal revenge on the Czech people and ordered the destruction of Lidice, and the village was burned down. The men were shot immediately; the women were shipped off to a concentration camp to slave in the brothels; the children were sent to the gas ovens of Chelmno.
    • Dr. Josef Mengele: "The Angel of Death". Dr. Mengele was infamous for the human medical experimentation he carried out in Auschwitz. He was a handsome and polite young man who always smiled and dressed nicely, and performed unspeakably horrifying medical experiments on the prisoners whom he didn't send to the gas chambers. He preferred to use children under five, and his specialties were injecting blue dyes into their eyes, dissecting their organs, sewing their limbs together, and making sex change operations. With no anesthesia or painkillers. There are two common misconceptions about Mengele: the first is that he was chief medical officer at Auschwitz and the mastermind of the Nazi medical experiments, and the second is that he was an actual "scientist" in any sense of the word. The grim irony is that despite all of the suffering Mengele caused (he personally killed at least 1,500 people...not through bombing or gas chambers but individually vivisecting most of them with his own hands), and despite how infamous his experiments would become in the world at large after the war...even other Nazi scientists later stated that Mengele's "experiments" had no scientific value of any kind whatsoever. There was no rational methodology being used on any level; he didn't even have control groups (junior high science classes were better organized).
      • Mengele was the living embodiment of the trope "You Fail Biology Forever". One of his own colleagues went so far as to burn all the notes Mengele sent him, to emphatically make the point that they weren't scientifically conducted and absolutely pointless. Mengele only received his PHD in 1935 because he wrote a thesis on racial superiority...which was academically worthless, but the in-power Nazi party was impressed with. This leads back to the first misconception: other Nazi scientists were the ones actually "running" the research program, on things like "how to revive someone with hypothermia"...despicable experiments which involved freezing many prisoners to death, but which A - were conducted scientifically (albeit using human beings like lab rats) B - had some sort of rational objective. The reality is that Mengele...was basically a crazed grad student who only got promoted to "doctor" status for touting the party-line about racial superiority, that vivisected people on a daily basis simply to satisfy his own morbid curiosity...while off in another part of the camp the real head scientists were doing the actual research.
      • While a lot of the "Nazi scientist" trope is supposed to be based on Mengele, i.e. that he mastered human cloning and would try to clone Hitler in Brazil...the reality is that even the other Nazi scientists thought he was utterly unqualified and simply The Butcher. He escaped to Buenos Aires and lived peacefully (although in fear of being captured by the Mossad) to old age until he died of a stroke while swimming. Apparently, he earned a living in Buenos Aires as "José", a shady doctor who performed illegal abortions.
    • Adolf Eichmann: "The Architect of the Holocaust". A strikingly normal guy but without doubt one of the scariest Nazis, he was completely obsessed with Jews from a young age and learned everything about them (including the Hebrew language). Head of the SS office dealing with the Jews, he was the one who organized and carried out the Final Solution. Eichmann was terrifyingly efficient at his work, sending trainloads upon trainloads to die in the gas chambers. As Germany was losing the war, Himmler gave a "no more gassing" order, which Eichmann promptly ignored and continued slaughtering Hungary's Jews until the Allies invaded. He escaped to Argentina after the war, where he was finally captured by Israeli Mossad agents (Eichmann was of such high priority that Mossad agents did not want to capture Mengele when they had the chance, for fear of Eichmann escaping). He was smuggled to Israel, where he was tried for crimes against humanity, convicted, and executed (the only person ever executed by Israel's civil authorities) in 1962.
    • Rudolf Höss (not to be confused with Rudolf Hess above): SS-Obersturmbannführer, and the first commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp. He perfected the methods of genocide, introducing Zyklon B and crematoria. At the Nuremberg trials, Höss claimed to neither take pleasure in nor regret what he did. An American psychologist who examined him reported that Höss seemed utterly apathetic and openly admitted that 3 million people were murdered under his command at Auschwitz. Höss was so utterly matter-of-fact about it, reacting with detached and belated confusion at the shocked responses of the court, that he gave the psychologist the impression that it honestly would never have occurred to him that his actions were unusual if someone else hadn't pointed it out. The psychologist concluded that while Höss seemed intellectually normal, his almost robotic detachment from anything approaching a human emotional response was consistent with the profile of a certified Psychopath (in the strict medical sense of the term). He was sentenced to death by Polish authorities, and hanged at the place of the Auschwitz camp.
    • Amon Göth: Sturmbannführer and Commander of the Plaszow camp. Göth was rather frivolous and laid-back for a Nazi officer, and his main interests in life were good wine, the ladies, making easy money, inventing new torture methods, forcing children to drink piss and eat diarrhea, and using live prisoners for sniper target practice. His camp was, not counting the gas-chamber death camps, the one with the highest death rate by far. Towards the end of the war, the sadistic and clearly insane Göth was locked in a mental asylum, later found by Polish soldiers, and executed. He was not a high-ranking Nazi in the greater picture, but his iconic portrayal in the movie Schindler's List has made him one of the most infamous.
    • Otto Skorzeny: Waffen SS Special Operations chief and ass-kicker extraordinaire, he masterminded numerous missions throughout the war, including the paratrooper rescue of Mussolini from his prison, which prompted Allied Supreme Commander Eisenhower himself to openly describe Skorzeny as "the most dangerous man in Europe". He was famous for his tough look, with knife scars on his face. Towards the end of the war, he commanded the Werewolves (guerilla groups who fought against the Soviet Army). After the war ended, he was famous for boasting he could liberate all the Nazis held within Spandau Prison given only twenty soldiers. He escaped from prison in 1948 (disguised as a GI) and went on to become a trainer of various armed militias abroad, including Palestinian rebels in the Gaza Strip. In 1970, he had a tumor removed from his spine and was paralyzed from the waist down, but due to his levels of badassery, he was back on his feet within six months. He died five years later in Franco's Spain at the age of 67.


    • Roland Freisler: President of the People's Court, and an attendant of the Wannsee Conference. Freisler oversaw the trials of the teenage leaders of the peaceful White Rose movement, and of those suspected in the July 20 plot. Heartless, corrupt and an all-around bully, he would manipulate transcripts to ensure a verdict of "guilty" and scream explosively at defendants when delivering a sentence, or when they tried to defend themselves. In just three years on the bench, Freisler delivered the vast majority of death sentences the People's Court ever issued. He received a deliciously Karmic Death in 1945, when American bombers attacked Berlin and interrupted a Saturday session of the Court. A beam was dislodged by an almost-direct hit to the building and crushed Freisler, who would have survived had he not stayed behind to save the court documents (including those of Fabian von Schlabrendorff, who was facing execution for his role in the July 20 Plot that day [6]). The death was certified by Dr. Rolf Schleicher, whose brother had been condemned to death by Freisler on the previous day.
    • John H. D. Rabe: A German businessman and Nazi Party member who worked for Siemens AG. He helped set up a protected area called the Nanking Safety Zone for Chinese refugees from the Japanese terror during the Nanjing Massacre (a.k.a. the Rape of Nanjing). This helped to save over 200,000 Chinese civilians ... and cost Rabe his life savings and reputation in Germany. When he wrote to Hitler about the situation in Nanjing with a plea to stop the Japanese invasion, the Gestapo detained him; he was only released after Siemens used their influence. After the war, the Soviet NKVD and then the British Army arrested him, both letting him go after intense interrogation. He lived in poverty for the rest of his life, with his family only having a small one-room apartment and not enough money for food. When the citizens of Nanjing learned of the situation in 1948, they quickly raised a sum equivalent to present-day 19,000 USD for Rabe. They also sent a food package each month until the communist takeover. On January 5, 1950, he died of stroke. In 1997, his tombstone was moved from Berlin, Germany to Nanjing, China.
    • Oskar Schindler: of Schindler's List fame. He was a businessman who joined the Nazi party for the economical and political advantages, and got the chance to start running a factory to build munitions. At first, he bribed officials to make sure he had the required workers, but as the war continued, he increasingly spent more money to save as many people as possible, saying everyone was a skilled worker in order to make sure that they were not sent to Auschwitz, while not producing anything at all in his factory (he even bribed other companies to get the necessary munitions to fulfill his quotas). He ended up bankrupt because of what he did, but he was also the only Nazi member to be awarded the honorific Righteous Among The Nations.
    • Martin Niemöller: A war hero who served aboard the U-boats in World War I, Niemöller was a Christian pastor and an initial supporter of the Nazi regime. However, for "insufficiently supporting the regime," he was arrested and held at three concentration camps, including Dachau, until he was liberated by American troops. After the war, he became famous for his poem regarding the rise of the Nazi regime: "First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."
    1. Hitler styled "his" new Germany as the "1000-year Reich," for which he got a lot of mockery after the war when it turned out to last only twelve years.
    2. On the grounds that shechita, or kosher slaughter, forbade stunning the animal to be killed, however, it does involve slitting the throat, which is a rather humane death. The animal must be killed "with respect and compassion" as well.
    3. Others claim that Sweden was spared because they had the chance to "willingly" bend over when the Third Rich told them to. The fact that they did just that is quite the sore topic even now.
    4. He did cheat on his wife with an actress and used his happy healthy kids as evidence that disabled children should be euthanized.
    5. There is now some evidence that he was lured there by a British lady acquaintance under the pretext of preparing a peace deal. Said acquaintance was working with MI6
    6. Schlabrendorff would survive the war and become a prominent member of the West German courts.